This festival is believed by some to come originally from an ancient Chinese festival dedicated to boys during which people would hang medicinal herbs to keep away childhood diseases. This day was created during the Edo period of Japan's history (1603-1867) to stress the importance of military training for boys. It was renamed Children's Day in 1947 after World War II.

Families with boys use the day to wish their sons a good future. It is celebrated by hanging carp streamers outside and putting samurai dolls inside the house. Both symbolize strength, power and success in life. Rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves, and mochi wrapped in oak leaves are eaten, again to symbolize strength and success.

The day to wish good fortune to girls is called the Doll Festival (Hina Matsuri) and is celebrated in March.